British supermarket chain Co-op has switched its fresh meat to British-only.

The retailer said it made the move to sell only home-sourced meats amid rising imports.

Quoting customs data, the store said meat imports to the UK have doubled in the last two decades, and called on other retailers to follow suit by buying local.

Jo Whitfield, retail chief executive of the Co-op, said: "British consumers will be shocked to see how meat imports have grown while at the same time retailers hang out the bunting and claim to back British farmers.

"Only the Co-op offers 100% British fresh meat all year round, and not just in the meat cabinet but also in our sandwiches, our pies and our ready meals.

"We can do this because we're owned by members, not shareholders, and can invest long-term in what matters to communities, not what provides the fastest shareholder return.

"I call on other retailers and food providers to do more to help our farmers, particularly as they head towards uncertain times."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the withdrawal of the UK from Europe was a huge challenge, but that Ireland wanted to ensure that at the end of the negotiating period Ireland’s exports will continue unaffected.

According to Bord Bia's Brexit briefing document, meat exports make up the highest proportion of Irish food and drink exports to the UK.

The UK accounts for around 54% of total Irish meat and livestock exports, reflecting the fact that it is the highest priced beef market in the world.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath raised the matter during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this morning.

He warned that the decision by the Co-op could become a trend if others follow suit.